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NAPLES — The sound and fury that accompanied a Stage 2 jet ban at Naples Municipal Airport a decade ago isn’t likely to repeat itself when a three-month, $6.2 million runway overhaul begins Monday at Marco Island Executive Airport.
While the Naples airport doesn’t allow the older, noisier jets to land, the Marco Island airport does. Marco air traffic is getting diverted to Naples and other local airports during the runway shutdown.
The 2002 ban imposed by the Naples Airport Authority quickly prompted a legal challenge from the Federal Aviation Administration, but the Airport Authority eventually won the case in a federal court of appeals, presided over by current U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
“The judges didn’t rule 100 percent in our favor, but they basically said the FAA hadn’t proven its case,” said Ted Soliday, executive director of the Naples Airport Authority. “We lost the scrimmage (in lower courts), but we won the war.”
In September, the FAA ruled all jets not meeting Stage 3 noise standards would be prohibited from operating within the 48 contiguous states after Dec. 31, 2015. According to the FAA, the ban affects 599 airplanes between 25 and 50 years old.
Marco Airport Manager Robert Tweedie said he doesn’t foresee a problem with Stage 2 jets attempting to land in Naples during the runway shutdown.
“Maybe one or two of those aircraft land here a year,” Tweedie said. “We see fewer and fewer of them as time goes by.”
Chris Curry, former executive director of the Collier County Airport Authority who in December took a job with the city of Tallahassee to oversee its aviation department, said Stage 2 aircraft aren’t common at Marco’s airport.
“They’re just not around all that much anymore, especially with the type of traffic that comes into Marco Island,” he said. “Most Stage 2 aircraft have older engines and they’re probably used as cargo aircraft. The clientele that uses the Marco Island airport are flying in on fairly new charter aircraft, so I don’t anticipate any problems” with Stage 2 aircraft attempting to land in Naples during the Marco airport shutdown.
Soliday said Stage 2 aircraft can be retrofitted to meet noise standards for the Naples airport, but it’s a costly proposition.
“I’ve had one Stage 2 aircraft owner over the past two years come to see me and say he didn’t want to get rid of his aircraft because it was relatively new in terms of life expectancy,” Soliday said. “He wanted to make sure the retrofit would allow him to land here because it’s expensive to retrofit. Now he flies into Naples regularly during season.”
In 2012, the Naples airport hosted 87,000 operations — defined as takeoffs and landings — down from its peak of more than 163,000 operations in 2005.
The Marco airport hosts about 20,000 operations a year, Tweedie said, with approximately 3,000 operations a month during the December to April tourism season.
“We don’t think (the Marco airport shutdown) will have a huge impact on us,” Soliday said. “We’ve already filled up our hangars (with aircraft from the Marco airport) and given (aircraft owners) month-to-month rates ... we don’t anticipate a huge boom in operations.”
Soliday said the Naples airport vigorously enforces its Stage 2 jet ban.
“They’re not allowed to land here and we haven’t had one try to land here in a long time,” he said. “We have flight trackers and we do what we need to do. Every once in a while, we’ll see a Stage 2 aircraft lining up on the tracker and we’ll call the tower and let them know. We’ll also call the company or corporate headquarters (that owns the aircraft) and let them know we don’t allow them in Naples.”
The Stage 2 jet ban at the Naples airport doesn’t apply to emergency landings, but Soliday said the airport carefully reviews all such requests.
“In that situation, if you’re declaring an emergency landing with a Stage 1 or Stage 2 aircraft, we’ll take strong actions to make sure that declaration is justifiable,” Soliday said.